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Watersheds are for Learning


I love to teach. I am a connector. Thinking like a watershed is my nature, not my job. Rivers connect us to each other across communities, landscapes, and time. We are part of our watersheds and influence our rivers; not separate. It is our profound responsibility to live and model stewardship of our waters ensuring their healthy existence for time to come. Now more than ever, it is critical that we work collectively to increase understanding of watershed systems, river science, water conservation, climate literacy, and encourage participation in public life. And so, I am a watershed educator.

Fostering relationships with colleagues: veteran educators, emerging professionals, university students, water resource managers, urban leaders, rural experts and others across Colorado and beyond for the past two years has been a tremendous joy. Celebrating the success stories, listening to the learnings, and together sourcing and implementing proven resources and tools to increase effectiveness in meeting water education and outreach goals of organizations and agencies across the state has been energizing.

Learning from these experiences of offering workshops, building a network of educators, and sharing proven resources a few strong themes have emerged that may guide the future of water education across Colorado.
  1. Educators are Experts – Educators are experts at teaching, connecting with learners, and making content relevant to various audiences. Educators are professionals who have committed their lives to life-long-learning and are always seeking new ways to teach and reach their students of all ages. Learn from them how to turn our libraries of water information into relevant and accessible knowledge for communities. Leverage educators’ expertise often. 
  2. An Abundance of Water Information and Content– Water Resource Managers and policy experts have oodles of water related data, information, and content. These professionals need strategies, mechanisms, and tools to share their data and content appropriately with their audiences and methods for making the content relevant to their learners. Share information effectively. 
  3. Building Long Lasting Communities of Practice – To successfully transform educators’ and outreach professionals’ practice, continual support from colleagues and resource experts is necessary. Building collegial communities of practice among mixed groups of master educators, less experienced educators, water resource managers, and professional development coordinators can be powerful mechanisms to support increasing effectiveness of water education across Colorado. Foster strong learning communities. 
  4. Direct Water and Snow Experiences – I came to love rivers, lakes and snow because I experienced them directly going fishing, floating, swimming, picnicking, spending time stream side pondering life’s biggest questions, cross country skiing, shoveling the drive, and embarking on backcountry hut trips. Always conduct water education experiences near a body of water (frozen or liquid) and include a quality direct experience during your program no matter how long or short. It is the direct experiences that typically have the strongest memorable impact while offering a bit of inspiration and fun. Get outside. 
Coordinating the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Water Educator Network has significantly impacted my career trajectory and for this I am forever grateful. I will continue to connect people to people and people to projects across Colorado and beyond. I am committed to life-long learning and am addicted to exploring and implementing the newest best practices. Creating programs and opportunities based in places sharing watershed stories with learners and colleagues energizes me. There is currently great momentum and opportunity to prioritize working collectively to increase watershed literacy in the headwaters state and across basins. Let’s work together to see what more we can create to increase our collective effectiveness.

I will continue to reside in the Crystal River Watershed on Colorado’s Western Slope. Follow my latest projects and endeavors with Wild Rose Education as you may find yourself attending (or supporting) the 2nd Annual Educator River Institute at Western State or the Grand County River Workshop in 2018 among other projects that are to come.

Sarah R. Johnson coordinated CFWE’s Water Educator Network February 2016 – June 2017. Learn more about her current projects at www.wildroseeducation.com and reach her at sarah@wildroseeducation.com.

This piece originally appeared at Your Water Colorado Blog

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